St. John Valley

Aroostook toddler partnered with Massachusetts-based runner in Boston Marathon

VAN BUREN, Maine — A toddler in Aroostook County was selected to raise money in the Boston Marathon Monday. 

Matthew Dolan, an 18-month-old from Van Buren, was selected as a Patient Partner for Boston Children’s Hospital’s team Miles for Miracles in the Boston Marathon on April 18.

A Patient Partner is a child, or anyone who was or is a patient of Boston Children’s Hospital who is selected and matched with a runner in the Boston Marathon for the hospital’s team. These runners and patient partners raise money for the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Trust Fund. The money from said trust goes toward training and research that will shape the future of health care for children, and helps children like Matthew who may have long stays at the hospital. 

Miles for Miracles has collectively raised more than $38 million for patients and families since 1996. Team members raise funds while training for their race to support Boston Children’s Hospital’s areas of greatest need through the Every Child Fund. 

Matthew Dolan checks out his Boston Children’s Hospital medallion at a banquet for Patient Partners and their runners in the Boston Marathon on Apr. 16. Courtesy of Christina Needham.

Matthew’s mother Christina Needham said the fund helps sick kids still be kids, helps ease the financial burden of things insurance doesn’t cover and helps caregivers and scientists find solutions others can’t. 

Needham said she received an email from Matthew’s inpatient social worker saying that Matthew was eligible to sign up as a Patient Partner. Both social worker and mother thought that signing Matthew up would be a good way to share his story and help kids and other families in similar situations, Needham said. 

“It helps share Matthew’s story,” Needham said. “It’s a great way to inspire others to keep fighting. Matthew inspires his runner and his runner inspires him. Both have grit, courage and mental toughness. It’s a way to help other families in the same boat as us. A parent should never have to worry about anything but being at their sick kid’s bedside.”

Matthew and his family drove seven hours to Boston to participate in the event. The Saturday before the marathon, he attended a celebration for the runners and patient partners where Matthew was able to meet Nicole Stata, the runner he had been paired with, and even some of her family. 

“The best part is as a Patient Partner you get to cheer on your runner during and up to race day and beyond to form amazing lasting friendships,” Christina Needham said. 

Unfortunately, Matthew became ill Sunday night and was admitted to the same hospital he had been raising money for. Christina said despite Matthew being sick, he and his family watched the marathon from his hospital room, tracking Stata’s progress and cheering her on as she made her way through the 26-mile race. 

The only patient partner chosen from Aroostook County for this year’s marathon, Christina said Matthew’s selection is an honor for their family.   

“Matthew hasn’t had the easiest start to life,” Needham said. “He has spent more time at Boston Children’s Hospital than any child should. He has had numerous surgeries and procedures including open heart surgery. He’s a County kid hundreds of miles away from the care he needs to survive. Miles for Miracles is one of the ways Matthew can continue to receive world class, all around, innovative care.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an error. Matthew’s last name is Dolan. Christina’s last name is Needham.

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